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 “Remain in Mexico”: poverty and danger

 “Remain in Mexico”: poverty and danger

 “Remain in Mexico”: poverty and danger
August 01
14:30 2019

Testimony of asylum seekers waiting in Juarez

Morgan Smith


Haga » Click Aquí « para LEER esta Historia en Español


 “Peligro y pobreza,” says Gloria, from El Salvador.  She is explaining why her group of five – she and her daughter, her sister-in-law and her two children–  made the grueling and dangerous two thousand mile-plus journey from El Salvador to the US border. It’s Sunday, June 30, we’re at La Casa del Migrante in Juárez. Families from Honduras and Nicaragua as well as El Salvador surround me.

Gloria and her family arrived on June 8, had their first asylum hearing on June 26, were returned to Juárez, and are scheduled to go before a judge for the final hearing on July 29.

They are part of the ‘Remain in Mexico’ program. Historically, migrants who pass their first asylum test have been allowed to stay in the United States with family members until their final hearing. Because an enormous backlog of these cases, President Trump wants to force those who have passed their first test to return to Mexico to await their judicial hearings. This may well cause much more damage than the miserable US-run migrant camps like the one in Clint, Texas that has received so much recent publicity.

We went to La Casa –my eighth visit since last November–  to talk to migrants like Gloria and, more important, to meet with its director, Padre Javier Calvillo, the key person in Juárez in regard to the care of migrants. (As an aside, Beto O’Rourke visited just before our arrival. Why he and his staff didn’t think to bring needed items like food instead of making this just a photo op is hard to understand.)

Padre Javier says that this is a three-party problem –Mexico, the United States and the three key Central American countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador– and the three must find a joint solution. He has faith in Nayib Bukele, the new President of El Salvador who has taken blame for the terrible conditions in El Salvador that have caused people to flee but much less faith in the leadership of Guatemala and Honduras.

His major concern, however, is this ‘Remain in Mexico’ program, which has already forced 10 to 11,000 migrants back into Juárez. Some have come to La Casa and the five other parishes he has recruited for their care. (He approached nineteen but only five responded positively.)

Most have dispersed; no one knows where they are. Juárez is still a very dangerous city; there were 775 murders in the first six months of 2019 compared to 250 in Chicago and 135 in New York City, both much larger cities. So, these migrants are easy victims. Mexico is developing a program whereby they can stay and work, but it is not running yet. Besides, working in a maquila only pays about $1 an hour.  In short, our leaders have initiated a program –‘Remain in Mexico’– that Mexico has allowed to proceed that may be even more inhumane than what we have seen in Clint, Texas. Gloria from El Salvador may be among the few lucky ones to receive the humane treatment they deserve.


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